Chapter 123: Close Timing
We left our heroes in the midst of evacuating one of the foremost cities of the nephilim, a task complicated by the dragon-troopers mixed in with the crowds. After we finish loading our last batch, we decide we should do something about the people waiting in those parts of the city where we've crashed fighters in the near future. We formulate a plan:
We'll arrive, get everyone's attention, then the first boom will come. We'll tell people there's an explosion coming and we'll have to pick them up over there, at that pickup point, so they'll hustle themselves out of the way of the incoming fighter.
But first we have to finish healing Dafnord, whose uniform was still smoking a bit when we piled him into an autodoc on the Tellemataru. We move him to the one on the Munch, so we can play our standard time-tricks for "fast" healing without wasting Tellemataru time. Dafnord emerges ready for more, though he does take the time to mail a charred section of sleeve to Jumping Jacks, along with a complaint about "spontaneous failure" of the armor. (Some people are never satisfied.)
We ready our standard pickup arrangement, plus seven local marksmen, and dial up the pickup point. We find an orderly-looking gathering, with a robed fellow the center of attention. He might be making a speech. We consider spying on him, then shrug and open the tunnel right behind him. Either he's going on about "the day of the Exodus is at hand!" or he's going on about "do not be deceived by false prophecies!" Either way, we win by opening right behind him.
As it turns out, he's of the "day is at hand" school and personally knows Metalais, who identifies him as "Lintarus." They greet each other rapturously before the delighted crowd, but then Dafnord steps forward and declaims, "Wait! There is danger here!"
Boom right on queue. That gets their attention nicely, and he sends them to the neighboring pickup point as per plan. At first, they adapt pretty well, but then the crowd sort of dissolves into a mob as the people who know what's going on bump into the new-comers who don't. We stay there, picking up the very nearest and waiting for the second boom. While we watch uneasily, Metalais flags down a boy and has him nab a bolt of colorful cloth from someone who was taking too much luggage anyway. He starts tearing off lengths and passing them out -- they're to identify the invalids, who will need help or right-of-way to get to safety in time.
Tom, listening on the telepathy net in the pantope, thinks this is a great idea that can be improved on. He has Dafnord acquire a piece of the cloth, then pass it to him through the crack between the two portals that make up the interface. Tom can now use the cloth to track down invalids who are running out of time, by dowsing.
Just as Metalais notes a lot of uninformed new-comers arriving in the square -- Boom -- we get our second explosion, which is our three-minute warning. The square is way too crowded to clear in three minutes...
Tom decides to try something a little fancy ... and risky. He asks Mirien cast a glamour of mist over the occupied parts of the square, a glamour that only Tom can see through. She agrees and pops out to do so, after ripping a chunk off Tom's shirt tail for technical reasons involving sympathetic magic. Soon, the mist arises.
Tom dives into the mist and picks up the group on the farthest side of the square from the exit they should all be using.
Then he backs up in time to the moment the mist formed and gets the next nearest group, and the next, and so on, returning again and again to the same moment, arriving a few yards away in space. It's the same process as the whole Exodus pickup, only on a much smaller scale.
The mist reduces the chances for timelock, since no one will see later instances of the tunnel in the air. Tom reduces the risk of timelock for himself by working steadily in one direction -- toward the exit -- but keeping the tunnel facing away, so he can't see his own future actions.
Even with all this, he can't always back ALL the way up without the timelock detectors on the helm going off. Time runs out, even for him. There's one batch left to go. Runyana suddenly darts out into the mist.
The shockwave from the impacting fighter blasts into the tunnel. Dafnord and Markel catch old ladies and go skidding down into the Tellemataru. Blast force leaks through the threshold and into the pantope.
Flummoxed by Runyana's dive out the door, we back up and replay the incident at one tenth real speed. Even at that, she vanishes in a flash. Clearly, she was using magic. We try to follow her by dowsing for her, but lose her. We hope she knows what she's doing.
We go back for that last group. We'll have only a couple of seconds to pull them to safety (in the pantope, not messing with the tunnel), then we get to suffer the same explosion all over again. Hardly seems fair. We find them -- or rather Tom does since no one else can see through the fog. Tom then pastes up glamour images for people to aim at and everyone readies themselves for a quick pull with TK or muscles.
...2 ...1 ...BOP//
Dafnord grabs Tom and Markel grabs them both just as Tom shuts the portal in mid-explosion.
Well, that was weird. The group we were after were nothing but images -- behind any images Tom cast -- that faded away. What did--
Moved by a prescient impulse, Tom pulls Mirien aside just as Runyana pops out of thin air, followed by the six invalids of the last group, the ones who apparently vanished.
We hustle the invalids into the Tellemataru, where they belong, and start to haul Runyana off to the Munch's autodoc, since she looks decidedly scorched. She asks instead for a fay healer. You see, she watch witch-walking at high speed ("witch-sprinting"), hauling the invalids to safety, and was only half in that world when the explosion hit her in the back, and she rather thinks her shirt and some of the chain mail have sort of interpenetrated into her back. At least, it hurts like hell.
The fading images were a side-effect of her witch-sprint, gathering up the real people. She's very surprised to find she was able to dive onto the pantope, which is generally very inaccessible, even to witch-walkers.
Tom and Salimar lay Runyana down on her stomach and have Mirien make the extradimensional extraction. Once her problems reduce to mundane burns, we remove her to the autodoc on the Munch. She and several other wounded take turns in the autodoc while we fast-forward through their healing.
Now we have to go catch up with the people we just shooed away, and really evacuate them.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.